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Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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Re: Teen Angst Prevention Methods
Monday, August 17, 2009

I also have an interesting story! It took place during my practicum last year. One of the benefits of having 2 teachers in a class (host teacher + candidate) is that it really allows a lot of flexibility. One such occasion occurred when for some unknown reason, a student in grade 10 Essential English got placed into Ms. V's grade 10 Applied English. He wasn't even doing the same thing as the class... he just had instructions to work quietly at the back of the room. I have no idea how or why this happened but there it was. Well, here's where having a second teacher came in handy. We reworked the seating a bit so Ms. V would teach the Applied class while I worked with this student in a corner.

This is obviously never going to happen but I would just like to say how beneficial it is to teach students 1-on-1. I was "briefed" about him before I started working with him; I can't remember exactly what I was told but something about him not having a great attendance record and not putting in enough effort or some such thing. But here's what ended up happening. He would walk into the class, sit down, and the first thing I did was casually say, "How are things?" and whatever follow-up prompt seemed necessary depending on his reply. Sometimes, he would talk for about 10 minutes before we even got down to work. But I found that once he had said his bit, he always worked very diligently... AND, he never skipped that class.

Now, the point of that illustration was not to toot my own horn. But what I did learn from this experience is that, as Courtney says, it's not that they actually don't want to pay attention. And a lot of the times, it's not like they have some deep, dark secret that's plaguing them (although this does happen). I mean, this student... sometimes he just had some fairly simple stuff on his mind, like what to get his friend for a birthday present. I was convinced, though, that being able to just discuss this birthday present for 5 to 10 minutes meant that he wasn't thinking about it during our actual work period.

I knew I was onto sometime there but I didn't realize it fully until I taught another class under a different teacher. What he (Mr. H.) always did was for the first 5-10 minutes of class having an open discussion at the beginning of every class. I think his first words were always "So, first things first... any news, ideas, going-ons, etc," and I really do believe that that contributed not only to classroom management, but the well-deserved respect he got as well. Now, obviously, his method never elicited any personal issues. But like I said, it's not ALWAYS about personal issues. And it also made his students feel like he cared about what they had to say about anything THEY considered important or interesting. And as Courtney says, that is key. Not only that, but you just may learn a thing or two you didn't know about. And don't think of it as 10 minutes you could have spent cramming in more curriculum stuff. Think of it as the 10 minutes you just saved that you would have had to have spent getting your kids to pay attention. Because I also never had any classroom management problems in Mr. H's class.

Because it really makes it seem like a trade off. We care about what they have to say so they should care about what we have to say. High expectations are important, but you have to let them know that you understand what your high expectations mean. It's not just saying "I expect you all to do well because I 'know' you can" (<-- teachers must be psychic... the things that my teachers claimed to "know" in high school astounded me), it's saying "I expect you to do well because I believe that you have the ability to participate in extra-curriculars, be a good friend, daughter/son, citizen, have a social life, deal with the cosmic natures of life, love, and the universe, and STILL excel in my class".

Eesh, just looking at that list... I'm amazed that they CAN do all that. But they are teenagers. Teenagers can do amazing things.

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Jonathan posted at 9:44 PM - Comments (2)

2 Comments:

I think this is a fantastic topic! I also agree 100% with both of you.

Sometimes all these students want to feel like is a human being talking to another human being. After all, they are people not sheep and should be treated as such.

In one of my high school drama classes (it was a fairly small class) we had a puppet that we would pass around at the beginning of class. The person with the puppet had the opportunity to talk about their day/ weekend/ whatever was on their mind and it not only helped us ease into the tasks given in class, it also brought us closer.

I have also been in classes where we were given 5 minutes at the beginning of every Monday class to discuss our weekend with our friends. I like the idea of doing this with the whole class at the beginning of every session though (and hey, it makes them realize you're only human as well).

By Blogger Ashley, at August 17, 2009 at 11:46 PM  

Toot away, Jon, that's amazing.

I like the idea of starting Mondays off with some discussion, Ashley. That would be a good intro exercise for an English class if you were studying a novel or play where the relationships and conversations between characters were important. I'm thinking Romeo & Juliet in particular when Mercutio and Romeo are about to go to the Capulets. Giving them unprepped time to talk and then comparing their conversations to the play would make it more relateable.

By Blogger Courtney, at August 18, 2009 at 8:32 AM  

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